The Southern Aroostook High School girls basketball team’s chances to win the Class D North tournament got a little better last week.
That’s because standout sophomore guard Kassidy Mathers returned to the lineup six months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee and having surgery at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor.
“I’m really glad to be back with the team,” said Mathers, who led the Warriors in scoring last season with 15.5 points per game, according to coach Cliff Urquhart.
“The knee feels great. It swells up a little after games but then I put on a brace and it helps the swelling go down,” said Mathers.
Mathers, who began practicing three weeks ago, played her first two games last weekend, notching 10 points in a 76-52 win over Katahdin of Stacyville and four points in a 59-23 victory over Ashland.
She wears a brace on her knee during games and practices.
Mathers said she’s slower than she used to be because of the brace but “I’m able to move around pretty good.
“I was a little nervous in the first game but after the first few minutes, I started to get more comfortable with it and I got back in the flow,” said Mathers.
“She looks better than I thought she would. She has looked surprisingly good. She is moving well,” admitted Urquhart, who has limited her minutes to roughly half a game.
“I’m trying to get her into game shape at this point. As the season goes along, her minutes will increase and she’ll get in better shape,” said Urquhart. “The kids are excited to have her back. She has been a good spark off the bench.”
Mathers injured her knee playing in a summer basketball league game.
“I was dribbling down the court and I came to a jump stop and tore the ACL,” explained Mathers.
Her surgery was followed by months of rehab including exercises at home and two trips each week to Presque Isle to work with Aaron Marston at Next Level Training.
She would travel 59 miles one way and undergo a 90-minute workout.
“I had a good support system. I always had someone take me up there,” said Mathers, who did defensive (foot) shuffles as part of her physical therapy.
She said she is grateful to Marston and also to Dr. Ken Morse, who performed the surgery.
The 5-foot-9 Mathers, who can play anywhere on the court according to Urquhart, said she is going to take things slow and hopefully get back to 100 percent.
“I feel a lot better now than I did three weeks ago. I’m a lot more confident. I’m getting stronger. I was a little rusty when I first came back,” she said.
The Warriors took a 12-1 record into a Tuesday night game against the team that dealt them their only loss, Woodland. Southern Aroostook sits atop the Class D Heal Point standings.
Last season, with a roster composed of four freshmen and four eighth graders, Urquhart led the Warriors to a 13-5 regular-season record and the top seed in the Class D North tourney. They beat Wisdom of St. Agatha 38-32 in overtime in the quarterfinals before losing to Central Aroostook of Mars Hill 54-49 in the semis.
“Our goal is to win the states this year. If we don’t do it this year, we have two more years,” said Mathers, who feels her teammates played very well in her absence.
“They’re talented and athletic. I knew we were going to have a good season,” she added.